Paradise Lost is one of those bands that provoke many arguments among the metal community. Having a lasting career of nearly 25 years this British quintet was one of the first bands to play a slower, grimmer version of death metal that became known quite simply as death-doom. Paradise Lost is also often credited as the oldest band in the so-called Unholy Trinity of British doom metal bands (the other two being My Dying Bride and Anathema). But as time went one, the band explored different methods and adopted various styles, and those changes weren’t always welcomed by certain parts of fan-base.
Paradise Lost’s first album that was titled rather unsurprisingly “Lost Paradise” was an exercise of playing death metal at a slower pace and was not a big success at that. It did have a certain dark, empty feel to it, but was ultimately creatively narrow and, ironically, lost in itself, because there’s only so much entertainment you can squeeze out of a long repetitive record of homogeneous heavy music at low tempo. Although the record and continuous live sets were crucial for creating the core fan-base for the band, “Lost Paradise” is more of a historical monument than an actual musical journey.
”Gothic” is where glimpses of melody-making talent begin to show. Only glimpses for now – Paradise Lost were yet about to explore the art of combining the ugly and the beautiful – but they are present nonetheless. For better or worse those hints are sparse and for the most part the album consists of the same slowed-down death metal but now it is executed in a more intelligent way. The production, while definitely topping “Lost Paradise”, is still quite sub-par but is does somewhat enhance the atmosphere of the record. And melodic leads (courtesy of Greg Mackintosh), that pierce the record here and there, is largely what makes this record worth listening.
What also makes the record worth the time is Nick Holmes’ legendary back-in-the-day growl. Holmes has been gradually making his singing less and less aggressive over the years, explaining once in an interview that extensive growling was damaging his voice – and, evidently, his throat is much more tender than that of, say, Corpsegrinder Fisher. Only in recent years Holmes started incorporating shades of brutality in his singing again. But on “Gothic” Nick’s growls run galore – deep, menacing and definitely pissed of.
Being perfectly honest about the aforementioned “glimpses” of melodic greatness, this record only has two tracks that really show the band’s songwriting potential. Those are the title track and “The Painless”. Both are beautifully written emotional compositions that combine just the right amount of the ugly and the beautiful to make the whole thing work. Mackintosh leads are top of their game here; and both tracks employ female vocals, providing a stark contrast to Holmes’ desperate growl. There are some keyboards as well, and this extra layer of gothic sauce makes the two tracks a real pleasure to listen to. However, the rest of the album is really just more of the same old-school death-doom, with some little touches on several tracks to spice things up, and overal the material is more interesting than that on the debut.
Often hailed by metal purists as one of Paradise Lost’s crowning achievements, “Gothic” is, in my opinion, just another step to the bright future that would come a few years later. Take it for what it is and try to avoid the hype.